Former Nev. lawmaker arrested after freeway chase

Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

LAS VEGAS – Police chased a former lawmaker on a freeway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and arrested him at gunpoint following a struggle, hours after he became the first person ever expelled from the Nevada Legislature.

Steven Brooks was jailed in California’s San Bernardino County after being subdued with punches and a Taser. Police alleged he attacked a police dog with a wrench.

“It’s hard to know where he was going, what he thought he was doing and why he would be involved in a high-speed chase,” Brooks’ attorney, Mitchell Posin, told The Associated Press on Friday. “I think he feels the world is against him. But I’m just piecing together bits of information.”

Brooks’ arrest Thursday near the California city of Victorville was his third since January, and came just hours after colleagues in the Legislature deemed the Democrat from North Las Vegas too dangerous and unpredictable to serve his elected term. Lawmakers wept Thursday as they cited concerns about their own safety and evidence collected about an increasingly bizarre series of public incidents.

Police allege that Brooks threatened a Democratic party Assembly leader before one arrest and threw punches and grabbed for the gun of a police officer in his second arrest about three weeks later. He also was hospitalized for five days for a mental evaluation following another police encounter that didn’t result in an arrest.

He was sworn in and then banished from the Legislature building as a possible security risk days after arriving in a hooded sweatshirt and ducking into an office to avoid reporters.

He posed shirtless for a newspaper photograph to show injuries that he said he suffered during his first arrest, but that weren’t apparent. He tried unsuccessfully to buy a rifle at a sporting goods store in Sparks. He bought body armor from a radio show host in Las Vegas. He lost his job as a Las Vegas city management analyst. And he reported his car stolen.

Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who called Brooks “potentially dangerous” and issued an order banning him from the Legislature building in Carson City, said Friday he was saddened by Brooks’ arrest.

“I hope they get Steven the help he clearly needs before he or someone else is hurt or worse,” Horne said.

During Thursday’s arrest Brooks appeared to be punched by one uniformed officer before he was shackled by the wrists and ankles and taken away on an ambulance gurney. Police said the chase followed a call from a tow truck operator who argued with a motorist about the cost of fixing a flat tire on the freeway shoulder in Barstow.

“We just know the tow truck driver was uncomfortable enough to call us for assistance,” California Highway Patrol Officer Don Spiker said. “He said the subject was acting strange.”

The tow operator didn’t immediately respond Friday to messages from The Associated Press.

Barstow police allege Brooks, 41, sped away with the tire still flat and tossed objects from the vehicle before a spike strip was deployed to disable the SUV and he tangled with uniformed officers and the police dog at the side of the freeway. The objects were not described, and police didn’t respond to questions about whether Brooks was armed.

Witness Jennifer Simpson said she was alerted to the chase by police helicopters overhead and saw a man get out of a red four-door SUV after it veered to the side of the road near Victorville, about 180 miles southwest of Las Vegas.

Simpson, a mother of two who lives in an apartment near the interstate, said the man didn’t follow officers’ commands to turn around and put his hands in the air. He instead ran back to the SUV, chased by a police dog.

Simpson said the driver shut himself in the vehicle before several officers with guns drawn pulled him out. She said she saw at least one officer punch the man several times.

Simpson’s husband videotaped four minutes of the struggle, in which uniformed officers wrestle the driver to the ground in front of the SUV and an officer in a tan uniform raises his arms three times in apparent punching motions. The driver cannot be seen on the ground.

Kris Reilly, city editor of The Daily Press in Victorville, said he arrived to see the motorist a few minutes later, struggling against wrist and ankle restraints as he was loaded on a gurney into an ambulance.

“He was yelling something to the effect that, ‘These cops are going down!’” Reilly said. “He was yelling quite a bit.”

Barstow Police Chief Albert Ramirez released a statement alleging that when the police dog was sent into the SUV, Brooks choked and hit the dog with a socket wrench. The dog, named Buck, was treated by a veterinarian head and leg cuts.

“Brooks continued to resist the officers and not comply with their orders,” the Barstow police statement said. “A Taser was utilized on Brooks and after this, handcuffs were applied.”

The police report does not describe any police officers being injured and doesn’t address whether officers punched Brooks.

Telephone and email messages for Ramirez and other Barstow police supervisors weren’t returned.

Brooks was examined at Barstow Community Hospital before he was taken to a San Bernardino County jail in Rancho Cucamonga, police said.

Jail records showed Brooks was being held on $100,000 bail on four felony charges including resisting a police officer with force, willful harm to a police service dog, felony evading arrest and throwing objects from a vehicle with intent to harm.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said Brooks was due for arraignment Tuesday in Barstow.

Brooks’ expulsion from the state Assembly came by voice vote following a recommendation from a bipartisan panel that met largely behind closed doors. The seven panel members voted 6-1 for expulsion after considering a more than 900-page investigative report produced by a Las Vegas lawyer hired as a special counsel.

A coalition of Nevada media outlets is seeking to have the investigative report made public.

Brooks’ first arrest was Jan. 19, after he was accused of making threats toward legislative colleagues including Assembly Democratic Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. North Las Vegas police said Brooks had a gun and ammunition in his car when he was arrested. The state attorney general’s office hasn’t filed criminal charges in the case.

Brooks was sworn in at the Legislature on Feb. 4, but was arrested again Feb. 10 at his estranged wife’s home in Las Vegas after police alleged he tried to punch and grabbed for the gun of an officer who responded to a domestic dispute. Brooks faces a court hearing in May in Las Vegas on one felony and three lesser charges.

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Associated Press Writer Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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Find Ken Ritter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/krttr and Michelle Rindels at http://twitter.com/RindelsAP

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